I've been home for about two weeks now, and being back in the States is really weird. While I was in Vichy, I very quickly adapted to the lifestyle over there. I loved how relaxed everything was, the way the city was laid out, and the way everyone treated each other. Being back home was really hard for me to re-adjust to; I had nowhere to really go during the day since everything was far from each other and I didn't have access to all the amazing foods that I had become accustomed to. It sounds a little silly, I know, but the little things really mattered.
I was really sad for a little while when I came back. I loved seeing my family again, but I really missed everything that I had in Vichy. Being around my dogs actually helped me a lot and finding parks to walk around helped me re-adjust to being back here. I also had my older brother to talk to about the change, since he had gone through the same thing after he returned from his year abroad.
I would recommend people to have someone they can talk to when they return. Find anything in your city that even sort of resembles the area that you were in while abroad. Having little things that are kind of similar really do help the process of returning to the States.
Leaving Vichy was one of the hardest things for me to do; I fell in love with the town. My last day there was Saturday the 23rd. My host mom made me one last breakfast before I left and walked me to the train station to see me off. I had booked a ticket for the morning and left with a couple other friends. The three of us stuck together all the way to Lyon, had lunch/dinner together, and then went on our own ways to our different hotels.
For anyone flying out of France, I highly recommend leaving from the Lyon airport and booking the airport hotel for the night. For example, I left Vichy on the 23rd, booked the hotel for the night, and had a flight early on the 24th. This gave me the time to relax from traveling for a little bit and process everything that I had just experienced.
I had a lot of different feelings that night, and I really did need that time by myself to thing about everything. The month in Vichy was one of the best times of my life and it really was an incredibly valuable experience.
Every year, there is a celebration of music in France. This year, it took place at the end of the program. Quite a few blocks were blocked off so that people could walk in the streets, dance, and have a good time. Stores stayed open late and people set up their stages in the roads. There were some more professional-looking stages, and there were also people who just found an empty corner and set up their instruments. Some people just set up a big speaker and played music from their phone while people danced around them. It was so fun!
I walked around the area with my friends and we ended up by the river to have a drink before going back into the crowds. In the main plaza, there was a giant stage set up with food vendors along the sides and random stalls selling different knickknacks likes toys and flags. We bought a couple little French flags and some crepes.
Later in the night, I met up with some other people from my morning class and we went to a few different bars. Everyone in the town was having a good time, from what I could see. People were dancing in the bars and in the streets, kids were running around with lights, and people were just having an amazing time in general. It was a really good night.
Vichy is an absolutely amazing city! It's incredibly beautiful and the river is so gorgeous. I love exploring the city in my down time and walking around with the new friends that I've made. Down by the river, there are quite a few little cafés where you can order drinks and some food. I've been spending a lot of time by the river with my friends. The view is so beautiful at sunset.
There are so many different options for food in Vichy, especially near the university. There is a canteen on campus that students must purchase meal tickets for or put money on their student ID card. Right around the corner, there is a boulangerie that sells a variety of sandwiches and drinks. The farther you walk, the more cafes, boulangeries, and food shops you find.
My favorite place to eat lunch was at La Mie Câline. They had the most amazing sandwiches there and so many different desserts to choose from. The employees were some of the nicest people and I would talk to a few of them throughout my stay in Vichy.
Breakfast and dinner are provided by your host family. Dinner is usually eaten around 7-8 pm and dessert is typically something mildly sweet. I really liked all the dinners that my host mom made and it was really nice to see the differences in culture when it comes to meals.
There's two classes per day at CAVILAM; one is the morning class and the other is the afternoon class. The way the morning class works is that there is one class that is continuous through the program. New students come in and join the class at the beginning of the week and other students will leave when their personal program is over. Occasionally there will be a new student in the middle of the week, but it's less common. The afternoon class is made up of different students than the morning class, and you are able to choose what subject you study. You should really think about what area you need help in, because the afternoon classes are intense.
CAVILAM groups students by their skill and comprehension level. On the first day, all the new students take a test that puts them in the proper level. You also choose the afternoon class that you would like to take. There are classes that involve speaking, writing, grammar, and test prep. I chose speaking for my afternoon class and was lucky enough to end up in the same classes as one of my friends. I recommend talking to as many people as you can that first day so that you make new friends and have people to talk to in the class.
Once you're across the pond, there's a couple of different ways to make it to Vichy. Personally, I like to fly into Heathrow Airport and take a smaller plane to Lyon. You can also fly into Paris, but the city is so big and confusing for a first-timer in France, and the airport is rather far from the train station. From Lyon, you'll want to take a train or a bus to Vichy. There's sometimes strikes, so you have to plan ahead and keep an eye on the strike schedule.
I had to take a bus from Lyon to Vichy, but the ride was actually pretty comfortable. Figuring out which stop to get off at was a little difficult, but it turned out alright. There's a town near Vichy that the bus also stops at, so if you miss the Vichy stop, you can get off there.
Traveling to a foreign country is hard. I had only been out of the country once, but that was with my family and we spent a week in Spain as a vacation. For this trip, I was going to do everything on my own, but later decided to make it a mini vacation with my mom for a few days.
In all honesty, I was incredibly grateful to have my mom come along with me overseas. Having someone who I knew travel with me made the experience much better. In times that I would have panicked, my mom was there to help me calm down and work through whatever the problem was. I highly recommend traveling with a friend or someone you trust, especially if you have never traveled on your own before.
Hi! I'm Victoria and I spent the summer of 2018 in Vichy!